Hookahs are not harm­less

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­thony Ko­maroff AskDr.K

You re­cently wrote about e-cig­a­rettes not be­ing safe for teens. What about hookahs? I don’t com­pletely un­der­stand what they are. Are they OK for my teen? I think he might be smok­ing them.

A hookah is a wa­ter pipe that peo­ple use to smoke a spe­cially made to­bacco. Of­ten the to­bacco used in hookahs is fla­vored, which makes smok­ing it more at­trac­tive to some peo­ple.

A hookah uses coal to burn the to­bacco. This cre­ates ei­ther smoke or a va­por that is in­haled through a tube. Peo­ple usu­ally smoke a hookah as a group, pass­ing the mouth­piece from one per­son to another.

Hookah smok­ing is on the rise among youths. Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 study in the jour­nal Pe­di­atrics, 18 per­cent of high school se­niors have smoked a hookah.

Hookahs have been around for cen­turies. In an­cient Per­sia and Asia, smok­ing a hookah was con­sid­ered an aris­to­cratic and el­e­gant thing to do. Per­haps be­cause of this rep­u­ta­tion — and be­cause it’s an an­cient prac­tice — many peo­ple think that it isn’t as dan­ger­ous as smok­ing cig­a­rettes. But it is just as dan­ger­ous, if not more so.

The smoke you in­hale from a hookah con­tains the smoke from both coal and to­bacco, which are full of tox­ins and can­cer-caus­ing sub­stances. In fact, to­bacco smoke con­tains more than 7,000 chem­i­cals, in­clud­ing hun­dreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause can­cer. The smoke also has nico­tine. Nico­tine, by it­self, does not cause can­cer — but it is the chem­i­cal that makes peo­ple ad­dicted to to­bacco.

Smok­ing a hookah in­creases all the same health risks as smok­ing a cig­a­rette. This in­cludes can­cers of the mouth, esoph­a­gus, stom­ach, lung, blad­der and other parts of the body. It can lead to lung dis­ease, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, in­fer­til­ity, and low birth weight in the ba­bies of women who smoke hookahs. Also, be­cause the mouth­piece is of­ten passed from per­son to per­son, there is the risk of pass­ing in­fec­tion.

Since hookahs are smoked as a group, the smok­ing ses­sion may last a while, which can lead to more ex­po­sure to the tox­ins. A per­son smok­ing a hookah with a group of other peo­ple not only is ex­posed to the smoke he de­lib­er­ately sucks into his body through the tube. He is also ex­posed to smoke in the air around him, which typ­i­cally is heavy. As a re­sult, an hour of hookah smok­ing ex­poses some­one to as much as 200 times the smoke as smok­ing one cig­a­rette.

Smok­ing a hookah may be more ap­peal­ing to teens than smok­ing cig­a­rettes. First, there’s the nov­elty of the de­vice it­self. Sec­ond is the fact that it’s a group ac­tiv­ity — and it’s par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for teens to feel like part of a group.

Your teen may think that smok­ing a hookah is just some­thing fun to do with his friends. Tell him about the health risks in­volved. Be sure to let him know that he and his friends could end up put­ting their health, even their lives, in dan­ger if they con­tinue the prac­tice.

(This col­umn ran orig­i­nally in Novem­ber 2014.)

Dr. Ko­maroff is a physi­cian and pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Med­i­cal School.)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.